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[ Opinion ]

The Role Of Pain In Addiction & Recovery


My final time in detox, the intake was, shall we say, quite cloudy. It’s all fairly standard paperwork, but when asked if I had ever been to treatment before I answered no. I didn’t count the first time and had completely forgotten the second time. I was in a daze, but with a brutal detox coupled with supervised living and regular spiritual activities, the fog began to lift around 90 days after entering. 

There were a number of spiritual revelations that came to me in the coming weeks as the fog lifted. Some went off like clarifying grenades in my head (and heart) and I cherish each and every one of those. The biggest epiphany that stuck out, had actually come from year prior, in my previous stay at treatment. It just hadn’t clicked until now.

She kept saying, “You can let this pain be enough”.

She repeated this phrase it often. She was planting a seed and years later, around 90 days detoxed, it sprouted. At the time I didn’t understand. You see, I didn’t “think” I had a problem, having been sent to treatment by a loved one. I viewed it as a health spa and I was just on a rejuvinating retreat. The fact that it was a Salvation Army program, and there was no massage or hot tub did not compute. But when I remembered this treatment, what she said came rushing back and instantly made complete sense. 

As everyone says, the three key components of the disease of addiction are: progressive, incurable and fatal. Incurable but it can go into remission, there is a way out; fatal if un-checked and; the progression looks different from person to person and mine was picking up speed.

When you have the disease of addiction and you don’t think you do and you keep going, the progression tends to speed up which creates wreckage. It’s a part of the holistic/holographic nature of the Universe, issues we ignore eventually come back to us even harder. It can be painful and that is what she was saying; if I end my denial and respect the disease of addiction, I can stop the pain that’s inevitably coming, but I needed to have faith that there was deeper pain on it’s way. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t see it, and she was right, I left treatment (early), resumed my ways and began to roll down the tracks at breakneck speed. I hadn’t had enough pain yet.

What an elegant spiritual concept. The fact that pain works, is in our genetic hardwiring. It’s actually a good thing. There are children, a statistically small amount, born with a congenital nerve disorder, that means insensitivity to pain and they are at serious risk of burns and bone breakage as they play and live that present real issues for the families. There was an article in the New York Times about the disorder and I love this quote. 

“Her life story offers an amazing snapshot of how complicated a life can get without the guidance of pain. Pain is a gift, and she doesn’t have it.”

Nervous system pain response is reality, we cannot change that. What we can control, the question in all this, the spiritual lesson for me, the blessing of it all is; we have control over how much pain we need.

That’s what she was saying! I could let this pain be enough! I could change starting right NOW!

All this led to my actual surrender, which ultimately freed me from obsession to use drugs.  A spiritual principal gave rise to a physical benefit. The spiritual actually affects the material. 

I have not wrestled one tiny bit with drug usage ever since, and let’s be very clear; that was a full-on gift given to me and I take no credit for that gift. I do attempt to show my gratitude.

Since then, I have learned that this lesson can be used in all aspects of my life. “Letting the pain be enough” allows me to surrender. When I wrestle or stress about something, I find that I am self-willing and attempting to control the situation, and that ultimately leads to pain. By letting go, giving it to the Universe, trusting, not just focusing on what the little i wants, there is freedom. 

In recovery, we can think we are doing something good, when actually it’s still ego driven. We’re trying to control way too much around us because that was the pattern we learned in our addiction. 

Pain is a paradoxical feeling. As quoted in that NY Times article “It is an extraordinary disorder,” Woods said. “It’s quite interesting, because it makes you realize pain is there for a number of reasons, and one of them is to use your body correctly without damaging it and modulating what you do.”


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